Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
Isn’t this a great cover? I love the lettering.
|I’m going through the transcripts of jury selection in the McNamara trial, which is dull, tedious, fascinating work. It’s difficult to convey the experience of having a 1911 typewritten manuscript – old and somewhat fragile -- next to a digitized 1911 magazine displayed on my laptop. Put them side by side and a century disappears, collapsing time in a way that I never expected. |
I’m about halfway through the first of four volumes of transcripts and I have discovered that in questioning prospective jurors, defense attorney Clarence Darrow usually asks whether they have seen the August 1911 issue of McClure’s Magazine. That year, McClure’s published a series of stories about detective William J. Burns, who investigated the explosion, and the story in this issue focused on The Times bombing. So far, only one juror said he was a McClure’s subscriber, but he didn’t like detective stories so he didn’t read the article.
Harvey J. O’Higgins’ story in McClure’s is straightforward and a pretty good read, although I would have to fact-check it before relying on it very much. Burns gets ample opportunity to brag about himself, but he gives a fairly interesting account of investigating a large number of bombings, culminating in the McNamara case. These days, Burns is often described as a fairly unsavory character, but at the time this story was published, "Never-Fail Burns" was often called America’s Sherlock Holmes (though not “pale and penetrating” as Holmes was).
Burns’ 1913 book “The Masked War,” published after the McNamaras were sent to prison, is a bit more sensational. For example, it has a rather suspicious account of bribing a fortune teller in Chicago to feed false information to the wife of Ortie McManigal, one of the figures in the bombing. There’s none of that in the McClure’s article. It’s strictly detective work. If you like police procedural stories, you’ll enjoy this.
The 1911 issues of McClure’s are here. [Warning: The pdf is 89 megabytes.]
| This Batchelder tile of a peacock at left has been listed on EBay. Interestingly enough, it’s a different design than these two at the right, which were listed earlier. |
Bidding on the tile at left starts at $100. As with anything on EBay, an item and vendor should be evaluated thoroughly before submitting a bid.
Tom Treanor, who died covering World War II for The Times, files a report on Catanzaro, Italy.
Aug. 30, 1940: Hollywood After Dark: Ann Rutherford losing a set of artificial fingernails when an autografiend snatches at her hand as she leaves the Cocoanut Grove, Jimmie Fidler says.
Aug. 30, 1960: Perhaps you saw David Klinghoffer’s recent piece about changes in the conservative movement (“From neocons to crazy-cons”) or Jonah Goldberg’s rebuttal. If so, you might like to read some of Barry Goldwater’s thoughts for yourself, from 1960.Also on the jump, novelist Vicki Baum, author of “Grand Hotel” dies in Hollywood at the age of 72.
Los Angeles Times file photo
Photograph by George Lacks / Los Angeles Mirror
OK, here’s another picture of our mystery woman. And yes, the photo is from the Mirror files.
Update: On the jump, the identity of our mystery guest. Although she was an entertainer, she’s not exactly like our other folks. She has quite a story, though, especially if you have never read about her. I thought she would be a nice change of pace for noir fans who may be a little weary of The Times bombing.
There's not much reason to watch Ernst Lubitsch's silent historical epic "Anna Boleyn" (which Netflix informs me is also called "Deception"), unless you're, say, a movie blogger who has set herself the cussed task of watching only films from 1920, 1940, 1960 and 1980. Fortunately for you, I am just such a blogger, and so I have watched this film so that you do not have to!
It's not that it's bad by any means; for 1920, the sets and costumes are pretty impressive. Five minutes in, I was waving a pizza slice around and expostulating to the cats, "Look at that crowd shot! All these people in costume! This thing must have cost a fortune!" And the acting is often hammy but fun, and it fits the material. Also, a wench jumps out of a cake! It's just that the thing is so long. Run time is about two hours, but it feels longer.
Part of the problem is that you already know the story, although the tragedy's been hepped up until it feels like "Tess of the d'Urbervilles." Young Anna (German for "Anne," I guess) Boleyn arrives from France to stay with her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk (Ludwig Hartau), and be a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon. She's excited to meet the queen and also to be reunited with her boyfriend, megacutie Sir Henry Norris (Paul Hartmann).
Instead, she catches the roving eye of big gross King Henry VIII (Emil Jannings, clearly enjoying himself tremendously). He openly chases Anna around, devastating Catherine (the lusciously named Hedwig Pauly-Winterstein) and shattering Anna's relationship with Sir Henry. Anna ends up married to the man she loathes, and we all know how that goes for her.
Behold the war machine of Gen. Harrison Gray Otis! A 1910 Franklin Model H landaulet!
Virtually no one who writes about The Times and Gen. Harrison Gray Otis can resist referring to a cannon mounted on his car. Otis is “the man you love to hate” of Los Angeles history, and what could be more delicious than the armor-plated Otis-mobile with its fearsome artillery piece.
Sorry. It was an auto horn. Honk!
At right, a May 21, 1910, article in The Times describes the custom Franklin. Curiously enough, although Otis wasn’t a shy man, The Times was coy about who owned the new vehicle.
It’s a bit difficult to tell from the photo, but the front of the car (which was air-cooled and had no radiator) resembled a large cannon – at least according to The Times. The bronze car horn was meant to emphasize this military appearance. Here’s a modern photo of a Franklin, which shows the rounded hood and front grille. And yes, it looks a bit like a cannon.
Let’s roll backward through a few examples and see who got it wrong. Ready?
"Otis began tooling around town in an armored car with machine guns mounted on the hood," "Before the Storm," Rick Perlstein, 2009. [Ooh! Machine guns! I like this one!]
“... Harrison Gray Otis "patrolled the streets in his private limousine with a cannon mounted on the hood," “Dominion From Sea to Sea” by Bruce Cummings, 2009.
[Update] "He mounted a cannon on the hood of his limousine and made sure his chauffeur was prepared to repel, at his command, any enemy attacks," "American Lightning," Howard Blum, 2008.
“...to emphasize his truculence, he later had a small, functional cannon installed on the hood of his Packard touring car,” "American Urban Politics in a Global Age," by Paul Kantor and Dennis R. Judd, 2008. [A Packard? Oops!]
"Otis took to riding around Los Angeles in a huge touring car with a cannon mounted on it," "The Powers That Be," David Halberstam, 1979. [Not the late David Halberstam! Nooooo!].
[Updated Aug. 27, 2010: "Otis toured the city with a small cannon mounted on his car," "Thinking Big," Robert Gottlieb and Irene Wolf, 1977.]
"While Harrison Gray Otis patrolled the streets in his private limousine with a cannon mounted on the hood…," California Historical Quarterly, 1976.
Let’s skip a bit. I think we’re getting close to the roots here.
The story of the cannon appears in Morrow Mayo’s 1933 book “Los Angeles,” “Otis had a small cannon mounted on his automobile and went dashing about like a general at the front.”
And we find it in Louis Adamic’s 1931 book, “Dynamite,” “… while fighting the unions, he mounted a small cannon on the hood of his automobile!”
If anyone finds an earlier example, please send it along.
Note: The mystery isn’t over. The “prominent citizen” who bought the car had this inscribed on it: 1G. 1B. 1R. Cal. SSA. GV WYB. Any guesses?
Aug. 29, 1970: Joe Torre made the difference in the Dodgers' 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
This wasn't the case of a managerial goof. This was Torre the Cardinals' power-hitting third baseman, whose ninth-inning home run against Don Sutton provided the game's only run. The winning pitcher was Cardinal rookie and future Dodger Jerry Reuss.
"It has been five seasons since I hit a home run here," Torre told The Times' John Wiebusch, "and the only two I got here were hit off Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax in games we lost."
The home runs were hit for the Braves, the team Torre started with in 1960. He came to the Cardinals in 1969 in a trade for Orlando Cepeda.
Wiebusch noted that Torre had lost 20 pounds and was mostly playing third and only occasionally catching.
"The weight-loss thing was mostly inspired by the fact that this is my 30th year," Torre said. "I do not want to be known as a fat man."
-- Keith Thursby
Aug. 28, 1910: If you’re a fan of mystery books, you may have heard of S.S. Van Dine, who wrote "The Greene Murder Case," "The Canary Murder Case" and other Philo Vance stories. Van Dine was the pen name of Willard Huntington Wright (d. 1939), who in 1910 was book editor at The Times. [Disclaimer: Despite many attempts, I have never been able to get through even one of his books. My loss, I’m sure.]Some opinions: "The Way of All Flesh" by Samuel Butler: “Although it is not thirty years since the author completed this book it is already, in a sense, an antiquity.”
"The Motor Maid" by C.N. and A.M. Williamson: "The most inane and worthless piece of fiction I have ever read."
"The Window at the White Cat," by Mary Roberts Rinehart: "It is the best kind of detective story extant and has many merits which are almost unknown to this type of epileptic literature."